The Red-Billed Oxpecker


The red-billed oxpecker is a passerine bird in the oxpecker family, Buphagidae; It is native to the savannah of sub-Saharan Africa, from the Central African Republic east to South Sudan and south to northern and eastern South Africa. Its range overlaps that of the less widespread, yellow-billed oxpecker.


While driving through Kruger National Park, I often watched these amazing small birds perched on the back of zebra, giraffes, elephants, rhino, and other larger mammals. They not only eat parasites but also act as a warning system for danger.


While rhino often spend time scratching themselves against rocks and trees the oxpecker is a great help as the rhino's own personal parasite hit man. These poor giants are not blessed with particularly great eyesight, so the ability of the oxpecker to warn of danger is also a greatly beneficial attribute.


We get close enough to large animals that participants on my safaris will get some great shots of these amazing little birds riding on the backs of their hosts. Come along and see them for yourself.